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Music Mysteries

I sincerely hope you heard the VOCES8 concert Sunday.  Like me, you may have thought about some eight-part mysteries:

1. First and foremost, how do they do that?? 

There are eight vocalists, performing everything from medieval madrigals to jazz and never missing a beat – literally.  Not only maintaining the sometimes intricate rhythms, they managed to do it without so much as a snapped finger or obvious beat-keeping.  The music just flowed, in a manner of speaking.

2. Second, how do they do that, part II?? 

The harmonies and the discords were exquisite with each voice contributing perfectly to the whole.  We’ve all heard a Capella groups, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard one where I there was not one misstep, not one sound of “soprano stretch” nor “basso bumble.”  It’s so unusual to hear eight very distinct voices blending into one glorious sound.

3. Third, how many of them were there? 

It seemed sometimes like I was listening to a full choir; other times, I heard one voice.  This is the tricky part of choral singing, and I know because I am an abject failure at it!  We learned at the post-concert dinner that there is a very extensive winnowing process for applicants to VOCES8.  Each time the word has gone out that the group is interviewing for a particular voice, they receive hundreds of applicants.  After about 14 months of getting down to two or three hopefuls, they choose someone who not only has the right voice and skills (“Can you sing madrigals?”) but whose talents blend into the whole.  The eight people we heard are the absolute best of the best.  You can tell.

4. How do they select their music? 

The variety, the colors of the music performed perfectly suited this group and amply demonstrated their skills.  I can’t imagine how many hours were spent finding everything from the composition of Gibbons (simple, elegant) to the music of Britten (complex, rhythmically complicated and satisfying).  I wonder if, like prospective singers, they sift through hundreds of candidates.

5. What happened to our audience?

I heard not a sound, not a rustle, not a beep or ping during the whole concert.  The audience was more than quiet; they were taken up into this incredible music.  I think “rapt attention” would describe the reaction.

I often eavesdrop on conservations as our patrons leave the Temple, and everything I heard on Sunday was positive.  The only complaint was that the concert seemed too short, and I would agree.  I could listen to this group for hours.

I hope we’ll see you at our last concert of the season.  On April 26th, we will enjoy the artistry of the Parker String Quartet.

– E Doyle

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